Monday, March 19, 2018

Season Opener Hendrickson Soft Hackle

 At left, my Hendrickson soft hackle -- the floater -- that is my new opening day fly.

Tied on a TMC 103BL in size 13 this is my new indicator soft hackle which, when soaked, strongly resembles a Hendrickson.

We'll cover it in a little. I like tying it better than the Bocher's Special I used for the floater last year. This fellow is faster out of the vise.
This beastie at left is the Hendrickson soft hackle flymph. I cleaned this one up a little from the flies I used last year. Size 15 wide gap TMC103BL.

Frankly, I'm not sure the trout cared what was in the water column on opener last year as long as it behaved properly: it bobbed up and down in the top third of the stream.

Normal flymph. Thread body. Lightly dubbed aft in a neutral tone. Darkly wrapped forward with herl. The bi-color seems to be the trick. The nymphs are sort of bi-colored.

So, what do I have here? In the top third of the water column, there is the flymph.

On the surface film, there is the floater. The hen dun feather does everything I like in a Jingler without the bother of two hackles to tie-in. Now, the Jingler is a much more elegant fly that is pure joy to tie on the end of the leader. But, this floaty Hendrickson is an indicator because ... opener.

We can be slow on detecting the take right out of the box. Throw in a little extra excitement and we all can have a rough afternoon.

The indicator fly takes us back to school. (Hopefully without forth period latin.)

The floater: illustrated.

Tie-in aft at about the barb if the hook had one. Walk the thread fore and aft.

Tie in a pheasant hen (softer than the cock feather) tail , wrap as if a PTN.

Onto that, bind a small piece of foam cut to the width of the hook. Take care to bind the foam onto the top of the hook. Notice the foam stops about where we'd tie-in the hackle.

Create a nice tapered dubbed body to cover the foam. You can leave a little foam at the top of the pheasant hen right aft of the dubbing. It isn't for the fish. It reminds you this is the "floaty" version of the fly as you dig through your box.

Tie in two-turns of a dun hen feather right forward of the body, then collar with a bit of a darker dubbed material.

Watch the eye.

And here he is groomed on a cork for the photo. He'll float all day long on a dry dropper with his cousin the flymph.

I worked this guy in the last half of the year when I'd tie a trio of indicator flies at my campsite after breakfast. It's sort of Adams-ish. Just a floater.

Seems to work.

Base mixed dubbing. SLF Ginger. SLF Root Beer, SLF Dark Claret. Awesome Possum Australian possum in natural.

Add more claret for the collar dubbing noodle.

Otherwise, this has a "splotchy" lifelike appeal when spun. It's a little washed out in the picture.

See the flies above for a better portrayal.

I wish I tied nicer, cleaner flies. I don't. I tie decent thread bodied flies but I go for the buggy set on anything else. I've got Robert Smith's book here open in front of me at the desk. I look at his delicate and precise representations. Then, I ball some fur on a hook.

I'm fortunate that the trout seem to go along with it. They're good sports that way.

A prepared English Grouse feather for a amber-and-grouse thread bodied fly.  Seems to do fine, too. Not bi-colored. Not specifically pattered after nymphs I've researched.

Still catches plenty of fish. Looks a lot like a Hendrickson when stuck on the surface film.

I'm at the bench tying for opener. I'm feeding breakfast on the Black River. I'm looking forward to forty-six degrees, a light drizzle, and heavy overcast that lasts all weekend long.

I'm camping in my new outfitter's tent (as soon as I learn to set it up ...snow still melting in my front garden where I do my tent practice).  I've replaced my tippet.

Come on, spring! Just over thirty days until season.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Reels and Reels and Reels

Spring cleaning, line washing, lubrication this weekend.

At left, trout reels in 4 wt. and 5 wt

In the foreground: Konic from Lamson, Ballan (one where the pieces fit together properly), an SA system 1/ Diawa 456, another SA System 1/ Diawa 456 of the other flavor reel face (both Marquis clones and some of the best clones made) , yet another System 1/ 456 ... and the line continues...

So, trout reels.

If you catch the usual trout most of us encounter -- the under 20" variety -- the reel is a line holder.

The Konic in the foreground was used for streamer and smallmouth work where I do enjoy a disk drag when I get a nice fish on and try to flounder by stepping in a hole.Seems to happen on the Huron every time I get a nice smallmouth hooked.

Holding the rod aloft as I flounder certainly benefits from a subtle drag system!

Nevertheless, a couple reels for consideration:

At left, a Douglas Argus I've used for a couple seasons. The brass foot is a nice touch and the design aesthetic features wonderful detail. The palming rim is inset with hundreds of pin-sized holes which provide a nice friction stop when your paws are cold and you're not quite sure how hard you'e pressing.

This is a beautiful click-and-pawl reel on a par with any classic reel. Comes in a padded bag as pictured. The pawl tension is adjustable from a brass screw on the back fixed rim. Classy.

Goes for ... too much money for any utility argument. Nice, but pricey.

Beauty frequently costs.

Once apon a time, beauty cost me a brand new Ford Bronco (like O.J.'s)  when she put it in a creek having missed the WPA bridge late one evening. That Bronco never did run right afterward. Sold it to a guy I didn't like. I don't think the Bronco was going to help him like me any better either when it wouldn't start every other morning. 

I wasted windfall money on that Bronco, anyway. Shouldn't have bought it.

Beauty ended up breaking my heart, too.  Don't they always?

 At left, one of the SA system 1 456 / Diawa 706 reels in my collection.

The aftermarket bag is a requirement as I've yet to see a reel case that was designed for these beasties.

The reel is a dead simple clone of the Hardy Marquis and as I have one of those (Model 5) too, I feel confident saying the clone is the better reel.

Yes, the Hardy makes a great, distinctive sound.

The Marquis also hates grit or dirt or anything other than fine machine oil for lubrication. If the reel is dunked in anything but gin-clear water, I'm soon to be mid-stream servicing the thing for a stray bit of sand. If I'm taking the Marquis out, I have a dropper of oil, some gauze pads, and some Q-tips in a plastic baggie that goes into my side bag.

An older fellow sold me the Marquis -- new in box, unused -- that he bought in '73 for his son who promptly decided he didn't like fishing at all and became a pretty good golfer. Pops has a collection of Garrison rods I've got my eye on. I gave about what Pops paid in '73 under the agreement I'd fish it until I couldn't fish anymore then find some other "pup" to sell for the same paltry price under the same terms.

I don't think Pops likes golf. He pronounces the word with the same emphasis most people use for "asshole" when driving.

Anyway, SA 456 Marquis clone is the Kalashnikov of trout angling fly reels. It isn't ornamentally beautiful but it is tough, true, and reliable. It looks like something that should do the job and it does.

That auction site has them regularly for about $35. The new -- re-designed -- LWT Marquis runs ten times that new.

One has to decide about gear: nicer gear or more days on the water with travel money in the pocket.

If it is a line holder, I'm not sure its a value proposition of cost over function.

Of course, fly fishing is just about the most difficult manner by which to put a trout in a pan for dinner. We're not out there for practical reasons.

Beauty will cost you. Sometimes it costs more than money. 


Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Big Fly Fishing Show

 First, the baked goods illustrated segment. At left, blueberry bear bait. It works. Attracted a couple bears in this house.

This weekend was the big Michigan fly fishing expo here in the southeast part of the state. I couldn't bring myself to go.

First, I've got all the gear I need with the exception of new larger wading boots. I bought new waders last year and the booties are larger and thus the existing boots are now painfully small.

Also, crowds.

I go to these large shows and see a few people I know. Generally,  the room is a giant cocktail party filled with strangers and ... the bar is closed.  Not much there to energize me.

I've purchased some great books at the show (Robert Smith's, for example). I've met some great builders. I've bought a couple nice skins.

I'm not much on the crowd. It's why I like fly fishing: mostly I'm alone.

I like the company of my dog. Lou's here on the ottoman at my feet as I write this. Beargirl is out on the town.  I'm content. The house is quiet.

I could have purchased new boots through my local -- they went to the show -- who were using the district rep's stock to sell while they were in their booth. Instead, I'll stop by some Thursday on a late lunch and buy the same boots when the store is empty.

One of the Amber Liquid guys had to put down his dog this week. I'm so sorry for him.

There are few people I know who I like as well as the dogs. Dogs are just ... dogs. Every morning Lou is glad to see me. When I get a leash, he's glad to go for a walk even if he isn't the one who needs it the most. He's happy when I come home. He's happy to be a "lap foxhound" and just get petted for no good reason.

I think there's something there about the trout, too. I've no good reason to go into the woods and fish for trout. I don't eat them. I could walk the trails instead of fish. I connect fly fishing with happy times in my life being outdoors and in the elements. I connect with dogs for much the same reason.

I spend most days in an office with faces looking at me to "make it all work." I do the pro from Dover routine a good bit.

Maybe dogs come back as trout and that's why I like them. Maybe trout come back as dogs.

I'd make a better trout than dog next time around.

I'd swim with the great beaver. I'm only going to eat worms, though. No flies.

If I'm going to get caught, I'd rather it be on some five year-old's Snoopy rod and bobber. Pretty good way to go.


Sunday, March 4, 2018


 At left, a little restoration project of my own.

Pictured: a 1492 1/2 China-made Medalist reel. I've carried this little 1" wide gem around for a bit looking for a good use. It's a right-hand only wind and is plenty of reel for any trout I'm likely to hook this summer in these waters.

Cue the dock scene from Jaws where the chief says "there are no other sharks like that one in these waters." Always trust a lubber to know the disposition of local waters. Just sayin'

Anyway, I've been looking for a special use of this little beastie.

I've spooled it with just over 40 yards of backing and 100 feet of 20 lb level running line. I've left space to hold a 225 grain OPST head, a 10' floating tip, and leader should I be pressed and need to roll it all onto the reel in haste.

I've a several rods in the 3 wt though fast 5wt which could hold this little OPST style set-up.

I'm visiting rivers this spring where wading access is poor and where the ability to "reach-out"  to holding ground requires zero backcast. Thus the OPST heads.

Otherwise, I love the Wulff TT lines.

"Right tool for the right job." 

I'm happy to put this little reel back into a use it deserves.

I've some great rainy-day streams to visit.


It's not quite spring and that's the agony here.

Some stoneflies are hatching. Saw a few yesterday on a hint from Bill Phillips. Thanks Bill!

Streams are high and chocolate. They're not as blown-out as last weekend but definitely bank-to-bank and fast with 7" of very sloppy snow from Thursday (fell in about 6 hours) on the melt.

Next weekend I swing some large rootbeer colored flies for early smallmouth in the Huron.


Al Ritt will be at the Beer Grotto Monday night tying socially. We tie different flies but he's a fun fellow to hear talk. That'll get me excited for spring, too. I'm only 100 flies behind where I want to be. That's not bad.

I'm tying mostly double-hackled and palmered bodied flies right now that are best described as loch flies. I'm giving trout something larger in profile this spring and we'll see how it goes. I've been corrupted in part with the thought of fishing larger flies throughout the water column.

I always have a page of sparse soft-hackled flies in my box so if my plans fall to naught ...


I received a fly vest full of accouterments from the widow of a buddy who passed last fall.  It was full of the sort of impulse buys that go unused or forgotten over most of a career. I've got it hanging in my library. I did take the armored stream thermometer.

I'll think of Dean every time I check the water. It'll help my fishing log.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Silk and Soft Hackles

AT left, treasure. It's a pile of Pearsall's silk thread from Lauren at The Painted Trout (link at right), my local fly shop. I suspect it is among the last spools I'll see.

Lauren asked her supplier to "send six of whatever you have in stock." Alas, no purple. One primrose ( I bought it) and a few orange. There are some other colors.

I picked these up Saturday after doing a little morning tying in the shop. Lauren and John helped me label the thread because I can't see the color and have to write it on the spool.

There's nothing here I cannot make work somehow.

I'm going to confess I gave away a couple stockpiled purple and a couple stockpiled orange to a gentlemen angler who is a friend of Lauren and Dirk's and who is a member of Dirk's trout club down in Ohio.

The fellow has tied soft-hackles forever. He thought he had some stockpiled thread. Turns out he didn't. I know how I'd feel if Bushmill's stopped making whiskey.

I bought too much thread (about 3 years worth). I'll use it. I used five spools last year (I save the little spools) so that was a lot of soft hackles. I tied in excess of 500 for sure. I gave a lot away. I'm converting folks.

There were several colors that I've neither seen nor used.

At left, some sort of light color. I thought it was salmon but I have grey written on the spool. Maybe I didn't buy any salmon thread.

Anyway, this very light thread is going to do well for me. I see a lot of twisted strand ribbing out of these two spools. I'll use it for close ribbing over dark thread bodies and have a nice "zebra" effect to test.

I've looked at Steve Bird's wasp/bee pattern for a bit and wonder, is the basic stripe ignored too often? I'll find out.

Some sort of new (to me) metallic sheen silk. Says "brown" on the label where I wrote it. I like it.

We'll see what kind of pattern it makes on a hook shank.

Lastly, this "dark claret" as I've got it labeled is wonderful. It has this translucent lushness when I dip it in water.

I'm going to use this for some ant patterns. I'll cover lashed foam bits with this thread and see how it goes in the end.

Yea, I know. Ants? Like how could you make an ant pattern better. Trout eat them when they see them, mostly.

Ahhh Hah! Let's get rid of that "mostly" business.

Anyway, I'm going to miss the small bobbin and the lovely feel of Pearsall's when it is all gone. I'll probably have to break down and buy a 1000 yard industrial bobbin of it sometime and spool it off on the little guys.

I know. Doesn't sound like a bad idea, does it?

Happy tying.


Monday, February 19, 2018

My Upstream Presentation of Soft-Hackled Flies

 I've caught a little "amber liquid" flack over the Baked Goods Illustrated segment of this blog. Seems the latest photos imply a degree of haughty achievement full of airs and illusion far outside the realm of normal Amber Liquid fare.

At left, this week's installment. I was off the leash while Beargirl was gone and indulged in forbidden food. In this case: pigs in a blanket.

Hebrew National dogs in a light biscuit dough. They were delightfully in the amber liquid wheelhouse.

No Bisquick here. That stuff tastes like Play-Doh. Yes, I know what Play-Doh tastes like. Doesn't everyone?

My Modern Wet Fly Code  would read: upstream, to a rising trout, from the river, with a soft-hackled wet.

Sound familiar? Yes, it is very much the pattern of upstream dry-fly. I'll outline below my upstream presentation tactics. Please, feel free to suggest where I might have gone awry. I catch fish using these techniques. Unlike Datus Proper, no trout I've asked has offered any sort of comment on my approach.

I'll keep asking.

My Upstream Presentation:

Soft-hackled flies are killers. However, there is a perception that they are swung down-and-across in an attention-absent manner suitable for the very young and very old. I say bullshit. These flies are best when actively fished. The upstream presentation is a good example.

The great WC Stewart of The Practical Angler fished his soft-hackles upstream with great success and he was surely a meat hunter: he paid his bills with his freshwater catch.

There's great sport in the soft-hackled fly. It takes a change of mindset to find it initially; but, once realized then all manner of technique is open to the angler. All it takes is a little nudge.

This little piece might be that nudge for someone.

A word on fly selection for the upstream scenario: I outline below a scenario in terms much as I fish a dry fly to a feeding trout. I fish soft hackles shallow in the same manner. To sighted feeding fish, I'm fishing so near the surface that I'm watching the take.

If I've no sighted fish and I'm fishing to habitat, I'm usually fishing deeper in the water column and I'm watching line and tippet for evidence of takes just as if freestyle nymphing in Colorado.

I do cheat and tie-in a piece of hi-vis Stren into the leaders I use for fishing deep in the water column when fishing early in the season. I haven't the ingrained ability to be able to pick up the gear on the first outing and manage subsurface takes with any great skill. Come July, I'm fine and can hook-up on the slightest twist. In March and April, I'm slow to see and slow to take up slack on a strike. A little more leader visibility helps me "re-tune" the lizard-brain so I don't have to think then react. I'll just be able to react.

Another cheat? A duo rig. Even deeply subsurface, the upstream approach outlined below is essentially the same when fishing a buoyant indicator fly over a spider. Just open your casting loop which for the majority of recreational anglers isn't a concern at all.

Above: a quick illustration of a scenario.

The Scenario:

I'm fishing upstream and have approached after thoroughly working the snag at the upper right of the picture. Edging across the current I see rising fish nearly mid-stream. I see feeding trout. If I'm fortunate, I see a large solitary trout who otherwise lives under the sweeper/snag pool but who is out on the town for a quick feed.

I'll say that there are several holding lies in this illustration. There's probably a nice cutbank in the bank's swale upstream of the sweeper/snag. There could well be a nice hole or gouge where I've shown the angler due to past high-water flows that washed out a soft bit of sand bottom during the spring spates. The current would shift at normal flows and I've seen trout holding in the deeper water especially when the bottom is black with mud or organic detritus.

No, here I see the riseforms from trout picking off bits from the bubble seam given by the tips of the mostly lateral timber or from the break of the current in its swing. I've labeled the area as "The Zone."

My bank is steep and alder-filled or otherwise undesirable as a platform. Frequently, some sort of draping limbs obstruct a backcast. It's Michigan.

My Approach:

I'm cutting the distance. I advance a half-step at a time. Small steps mean less wake, and less toe-force in the forward movement should I inadvertently strike a submerged boulder. To the trout, kicking rocks in wading boots makes a sound remarkably like the drum line of the Phantom Regiment. Not helpful.

I approach based on water depth. At waist deep, I crowd 20'. Maybe a little closer if I can sneak up to the tail of the lateral timber. Shallower water knee to mid-thigh depths I stand back to 30'.  I sometimes kneel if I have a shallow tailing bar. I don't need the leverage for a long cast so I minimize my form anticipating something going wrong.

The Rig:

Surface/near-surface observed feeding means a long tippet. In early summer, I frequently use 3' to 4'  of 4x on the end of a leader then 3' of 5x or 6x.  Fly size and whim determines my terminal tippet. A size 11 jingler gets the more aggressive tippet. A size 17 partridge-and-orange gets the 6x. I should also say that I hand-tie my leaders to turn over duo rigs. My leaders are a little stiffer so tapering the tippet helps.

The Preparation:

I pick the most downstream fish. I watch. I'm looking for patterns. Do they stray towards the lateral timber indicating some sort of nervous pattern? Are they "hogging" in mid-stream slashing at anything alive? Can I pick out the rise timing of individual fish? Are there bubbles from open-mouth surface feeding or are they bulges of a porpoising feed subsurface? I observe.

I can always change my fly before the cast is made.

I look nearby. Several times I've found a larger fish subtly feeding nearby while the smaller fish make a commotion in mid-stream. My best was spotting a nice brown feeding just outside the overhanging grass of a cutbank while smaller fish fed as a pod pretty much where I've shown "the zone" in the illustration above.

It only takes a couple minutes to look carefully.

The Cast:

I'm targeting a midstream fish.

The curve cast [Pete Kutzer demonstrating here] -- a laterally overpowered cast which curves the end of the leader and fly one way or another -- is perfect here. I rarely use it. Fancy casts amid structures and obstructions tossed in with the pressure of a sighted fish often means bad things. Remember, I'm not a commercial fisherman (e.g. guide, fly shop owner, outdoor writer, factory rep, pro-staff member). I'm working on being the occasional angler. Simple. Reliable. Repeatable. This is the mantra of success.

Your golf pro would say "play within yourself."

I deposit the soft-hackle upstream and to one side of my sighted fish. I anticipate the current providing a little cross-current drift (3" - 4") based on strength of flow and I use this to move the fly into my quarry's feeding zone. So, I'm casting 9" - 16" to the left bank side of my sighted fish. I'm dropping-in something like 2' - 3' upstream of the fish. I've made a choice. I'm letting the fish hit the fly on the drift. I want him to see, target, and take. 

I'll use a side-arm cast place the fly over a clear area judging the distance. Then, with my estimation complete I make the terminal cast.

If I've no place to prep the terminal cast, I'll use a roll-cast with my attention to the travel of my rod-tip. I execute a perry-poke with a short pile of line in front of me, aggressively build a "D" loop,  and cast forward to a hard stop a little higher in the motion than I first think necessary. My rod tip has no arc. None. (ed. - dual fly rigs need a little arc to open the loop and avoid tangles. I get excited and  omit this arc in pressure situations and tangle on the cast. Don't be like me.).

Having the line, leader, and fly straighten in the air and fall 1'-2' to the water with a little rebound slack is better than rolling across the water over the fish driving the fly into the surface with a "plop." Always better to "alight" on the water than pound and splash under pressure.

A little rebound induces natural leader slack and that helps the fly's initial drift, too. It lands and often spins a little frequently drawing a strike from other than the targeted fish. That sort of problem isn't  a bad one to have.

The Drift:

The drift is short. I'm covering at most one-third the distance of the cast. The fly is well in front of me when I decide to recast. I use a clean roll-cast pick-up to "snip" the fly off the water.

If I'm pressed for room and limited to roll-cast only I'll downcast the now aerialized line so that the fly is one rod length ahead and to my right.  I'll snap another roll-cast to a targeted fish. This is a single-handed spey technique.

Sometimes, I just reset and try the whole routine from speed zero rather than going cast-to-fish-to-cast. There's no harm in resetting. Too many anglers ruin things in haste.

The Set and Play:

I manage tension and line control by lifting my rod tip and using my line hand. I'll lift a rod tip to forty-five degrees to keep line off the water. Note I say lifting my rod tip and not my rod.

I can lift my whole arm 3" for a set or (preferred)  use a strip set from my line hand. What I don't want to do is raise my rod arm in managing line then attempt a set with my wrist striking with a rod-tip lift.

I don't want to end up with a strike at the end of a short managed drift with my rod arm raised as if I'm holding the leash on a giraffe. I've no control then. I'm "wrong footed" and cannot play a trout from that starting position.

I say this because I have seen anglers in such an awkward position.


My approach outlined here is overly exhaustive. I wanted to outline exactly what my upstream process involves so that anglers who only know the down-and-across swing have some idea of what approach might work. I catch fish in the manner described.

Ask a guide. He'll catch more fish in a different manner.

Upstream to feeding fish represents a great deal of fun. Upstream to habitat and pulling fish up to the surface is also great fun.

Fishing upstream in the bottom one-third of the water column is every bit as technical as freestyle nymphing. Yes, the fish do sometimes hook themselves. Far more often they'll spit the hook before you see the take unless your nymphing skills are strong. I don't recommend upstream dredging for trout, at first.

Upstream soft-hackle is one of the most enjoyable means of fishing water in small to mid-sized rivers. When the hatch season begins, it can be a deadly approach.

Hopefully, it leads to a double-digit trout day. It has for me.

Soft-hackles saved my Michigan fishing experience.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Presenting Soft-Hackled Flies to Trout

Above: a ginger-palmered soft-hackle fly as a variation on the theme of the Stewart Spider. This fly is tied on a #8 curved-shank streamer hook from Unpqua. That's a tungsten bead-head.  It's a quite a departure from the #16 thread-bodied soft hackle (shown below #16 purple-and-grouse in a micro-wire wrapped body). 

The large bead-head fly is fished as any other soft-hackle might be. Odd enough given its substantial departure from the wonderful classic bits outlined in Robert Smith's wonderful The North Country Fly.

 My underlying premise is that soft-hackle flies are the foremost expression of pragmatic fly design and their manner of presentation is itself an expression of the same pragmatism. 

The soft-hackle anglers pursue what works without dogma or restraint. If it works, it becomes part of the general codex. It's passed along. It's taught. It's imitated. 

If the soft-hackle angler has a motto, it is this: curb your dogma. 

Irreverent? Sure. Successful? You betcha!

A minor digression for the Baked Goods Illustrated crowd. 

Scones this morning. A maple-pecan praline scone. There should be a decadent sticky glaze on these but here at Bear Central, we eat them without embellishment alongside strong coffee. We're not much on the over-sweet in this house.  This batch came out light but satisfyingly rich in flavor. I added a touch of nutmeg and the toasted pecans took to it quite nicely.

Back to fishing: Soft-Hackle Presentations

All of fly fishing is divided into two parts. We fish to trout or more frequently we fish to habitat.

I'd love to assert that I do most of my fishing upstream to rising trout just in that twilight of a quickly-cooling summer's evening. I'm doing well to encounter these magical conditions three or four times a year.

I live in a world of conflicting priorities: a spouse, a mortgage, the day job, the night gig, the love of a trout stream. I get out when I can get out and my rivers are three to four hours away. Like most of you, I fish when I can fish regardless of the hatch, the trout's state of mind, or the weather.

I spend the majority of my time fishing to where feeding trout "ought to be": habitat. 

There's a distinction here of note. I fish to feeding fish. 

My entire approach is based on the premise that I will hook more feeding fish than I will hook from territoriality, aggression response, or  whatever else motivates a trout to jaw a fly when it isn't hungry. Those too are valid approaches. They simply are not my approach.

The techniques I employ target equally a pod of feeding fish or the locations I believe should harbor a pod of feeding fish. I'll change my fly in reference to what I observe. I'll frequently sit on a piece of timber, light my pipe, and glass the water ahead and behind me both looking for clues as to what is going on below the surface. 

The Approaches Employed:

I fish soft hackles as I fish dries, nymphs, or streamers. I'll vary the approach based on conditions and regrettably, most of the time that means the physical condition of the river and where I might be able to stand to cover a bit of water. I've a lot of timber, bramble, and swift current to consider.

The Upstream

I fish soft-hackles on a ten-to-thirty degree angle to the current on an upstream lie. I'm fishing on the surface film, or in the top eight-to-twelve inches, on the top of the middle-third of the water column, or on the bottom one-third of the water column. I can be fishing full-column depending on bug activity.

I'm making short casts following a gentle and silent approach from downstream. Short casts Normally means twenty to thirty feet. This is my favorite approach when I have a chance to fish to a feeding trout. I use it plenty on fishing to habitat but I love watching the take from a feeding trout at close range.  

The fly never drifts downstream of me.

The Up and Across

I'm fishing the entire water column here again. I'll make a reach cast across strong current between my fly and my rod. I prefer not to do so but things are what they are.

I cast thirty to forty-five degrees off the current vector. I'm fishing very short stretches because drag will hit quickly. Sometimes drag is excessive after five feet of drift. Generally I can get a good dozen feet. There's no sense intentionally casting where you see the presentation will be ruined and the fly will look like inanimate detritus slashing through the current in an unnatural fashion.

I again can be fishing full-column depending on bug activity.

The fly drifts downstream no father than my feet or just slightly behind. When the fly drifts this far, it is because I want the recovery and re-cast not to have a chance to bother spotted fish. Otherwise, we're making short casts across the water. taking a step upstream, and repeating. 

The difficulty in controlling a fly makes the upstream move from the  recovery and re-cast productive. 

Attempting to cast and drift over fish while moving downstream will soon produce the arrows of fleeing fish you didn't know were present but which your angling efforts alerted and alarmed.

The Across

Here I am firmly fishing to habitat. I've been limited in my approach because of environmental conditions and casting laterally across the flow is as good as it gets. You read that correctly: the across method is a desperation approach.

I'll cast across perpendicular to the current or slightly upstream. I'm usually fishing the top one-third of the water column. 

This year, I will work on swinging my larger fly through the water "flying" it in the bottom two-thirds of the column more as one fishes to steelhead. I'll have to work before I can report back on that approach.

Here, I'm fishing in the top third and I'm fishing highly motive flies. The hackles are long and "flouncy."

I'll make a reach cast to put an immediate mend in my line. I'll use repeated vertical mends from the famed "greased line" technique. 

I need to manage my mends to control the line and first parts of the floating leader but not jerk the terminal end with the fly attached. This takes control, finesse, luck, and coordination I regret to do not readily possess. Every season I have to spend a couple afternoons re-learning the precise motion that becomes an automatic muscle-memory judgment by June.

I'm watching my tippet. I'm watching it as intently as a tight-line nymphing expert watches his leader's junction with the water. Most of the time, the fish catch themselves. Most of the time. If you give the fish a five count, he will figure out how to spit the hook.

This is an area fishing "the-only-way-to-get-there" type of compromise. I will allow the fly to swing at the end of the coverage and -- timber snags permitting -- I will pursue and actively fish the dangle. I will do this fish-to-the-dangle rarely.

Mostly, I'm fishing to a ten-foot long stretch of water and will fish that water, then move upstream and fish the next bit. I'm not sweeping or swinging. There's a lot going on to keep a good drift but managing that action across one hundred twenty degrees of arc ? No thanks. I'm not that good.

I'm resigned to "as good as it gets" on this one. Short controlled drifts predominate.

The Across and Down

I'm casting forty-five degrees or more down from the current. I'm fishing a tight line at least part of the time. I might be stack mending at the end or I might be using the greased-line repetitive mends as soon as the fly hits the water. 

Most often, this is indeed your grandfather's swing through a broad gentle flow when the water might hold fish but where your reading of the flow gives no immediate indication of where in the flow the fish are concentrated.

I'm fishing in the water column most often here. I'm maintaining at least a frequent direct contract with my fly.

I'm saying a little incantation designed to bring one of those Todd Moen filmed trout thrashing-up out of the water on a super-aggressive hammer take.

I've been known to mess with my gear, pack a pipe, open a beer, eat a cookie and sometimes all of these because it seems to be a fish-inducing sort of action.

Cast. Step. Think about the next more technical piece of water. Cast again, step. Play with the dangle. Step.

The Downstream.

I'm fishing here in the full water column. Hazardous wading has positioned me so that I have to approach a fish or an especially good piece of habitat from upstream.

I'll try and position myself low and about thirty degrees out of the flow line.  I'll cast well upstream of my target and use large lift-mend stack-mend actions to release arm-lengths of line into the flow. I'm watching my tippet.

I'll try to control my drift so that I cause a lift in the soft-hackled presentation at or slightly in front of the likely trout. I'll direct an errant drift down to one side of the trout and us a roll-cast pick-up to lift the fly cleanly from the water downstream of the fish.

Often, I'll do some sort of perry poke type of side delivery after a pick-up to dump the line into the flow well ahead to the trout then I'll work like mad to re-position line and slack in my hand for another go.

I don't read about a lot of success with this technique but I'll say it is deadly for me. 

The key? Innocent eye approach. A trout doesn't have great memory recall. After I make my first approach, I'll recover, reload, then count to at least twenty before trying again.

I've caught trout after seven unsuccessful passes. You wouldn't think you'd get more than one but you do ... if you're cautious.

Yet To Come 

I'll work up illustrations and have a little to say about each presentation here in successive posts. 

Soft-hackles can be actively fished as one would fish any other food imitation or lure. They can be fished in all these techniques successfully. It's the presentation that matters and with a soft-hackled fly, you're on a downstream run to the ice-cream shop as far as presentation goes. The flouncy hackle almost does all the work for you. 

The fly is imbued with the illusion of life. Just don't mess it up.

Sounds like everything else in life.

Thanks for reading